Fish Bowl

I live in a small fish bowl, floating in a large pond.  I am so focused on the now, on what is in front of me, that I generally don’t notice the glass walls enclosing my life.  Usually I swim around in little circles from home to work and back.  No reason to bump my nose on the glass.

There I am, floating in my bowl!

There I am, floating in my bowl!

Because I have been many places and done many things, distance or population density don’t feel like a barrier.  When I think of a trip to Montreal, or New York or the west coast, I think – yah, sure – I’ve done that many times before.  That sort of trip isn’t a big deal.  I can shoot off in any direction at any time, limited only by my money, my leave time, and my imagination.

In reality, implementing such a journey, now, post injury, is so very different, so very impossible in many ways.  But I forget… or perhaps I enjoy visiting my old friend Denial.

Back in August, one of the people I love most in the world, my friend Evan – aka my ex-husband – told me he was getting married.  I haven’t met his lovely lady yet because they are in Portland, Oregon and I haven’t been able to travel by air since my injury.  When I heard, I was so excited for him.  They set a date of mid-December for the event.  I did a quick self-assessment, thinking of my continued improvement with acupuncture and the fact that the event was months away, and said Yes! I’ll be there!

Ev and I right before he moved to Portland

Ev and I right before he moved to Portland

For one reason or another, I didn’t buy the tickets.  Partially, I was waiting to hear from Evan about whether they would marry on Saturday or Sunday.  I needed to know so I could most efficiently select my fly in and out dates, to allow a visit to my mom in Eugene.  Partially, working 32 hours is overwhelming and doesn’t leave my brain much energy after work, and I want my wits about me when I spend $450.  And, partially, maybe it was hard for me to believe it was actually going to happen and that I was going to go.

Fast forward to Monday.

I took the day off because my last weekend of Druid training was this past weekend, and I needed a day to recover before going back to work.  Mary had the day off because it is a federal holiday.  We were sitting in the yard near a multiflora rose bush I had just planted, the sun shining down, wind blowing gently.  A beautiful day, probably the hottest day (72 degrees F) for the rest of the year.  A good day to be outside.

I was tired from this past weekend, but not exhausted.  A slight headache pounded in the front of my head, and I felt the wheels of my brain gumming up a bit.  Mary mentioned the trip I was planning to Portland.  And.  It was suddenly so clear to me.   I can’t handle one day stacked on top of another with noise and activity and stimulation.  I can’t go to Portland, Oregon, or any other place involving extensive travel.  I just can’t.

Or, more specifically, I can because I’m an adult now with credit cards.  And.  That would be really stupid.  Really really really really really stupid.

I picture myself sobbing uncontrollably in the airport bathroom, overwhelmed from the constant press of people and the sound of voices over loud speaker.  I see myself losing my shit on an airplane, desperately overstimulated, and having nowhere to run for relief.  I see myself arriving in Oregon, and my confusion at picking up a rental car, navigating unfamiliar streets, and checking into a motel for the night.  And that doesn’t even count the driving and the visiting and the celebration I want to participate in after I arrive.  I see myself sitting as a lump, lacking any affect because of my exhaustion.  My mental pulse flat-lined for days – the days I wanted to spend visiting with my family.  The trip back full of deep anxiety about flying again.  After arriving home, there are the days and days of recovery to consider.  A week?  That’s my guestimate. I probably would be in a mental fog – losing my higher reasoning skills for a while.  Then, if I don’t overdo it some other way, I’ll be fine(ish) again, but still probably more sensitive for a while – say a month or so.

I love Evan.  And.  I cannot destroy myself to see him.  I will not.  I have come too far, and it has taken far too long to reach where I am now.  I will not risk setting myself back six months for one event.

Is it really too much for me, or am I just afraid?  I thought of my present, and what I was doing – I took one full day off work to recover from a two day training… in the middle of a beautiful forest in a place that is so pleasantly quiet… with seven other people… with extensive breaks between sessions… and I need one day to recover from that experience.  Really.

It is a healthy reminder, I suppose.  Going to work five days a week is too much, but I do it anyway.  I push against the edge of my ability and tolerance on a daily basis.  For my evening clay class, I work a short day and nap in a dark room beforehand.  To go to a social outing, I have to plan my day around it to make sure that I not only have the energy to get there and back, but to save some bit of myself so I can show some pizazz while I’m there.  Until recently, I had failed miserably at doing more than showing up.  I’d usually end up a friendly lump of fog in the corner, once I arrived.

My little fish bowl is too big for me right now.  Swimming around, back and forth to work and the grocery store is pushing my limits.  I forget, sometimes, and bump into that glass sphere.

I am not ready to splash into the big pond.  Not for a long time.  Before that big dive, I need to slowly increase the size of my bowl.  Adding a trip to a city, perhaps, or spending two nights away from home doing stuff.  Slowly, slowly, I will expand my world.  For all that my fish bowl confines me, it also keeps me safe.  This fragile body, my fragile mind need to be cradled and protected and loved.  I have to acknowledge to myself, and to my family, that I am not ready for the big bad world right now.

It breaks my heart not to be with Evan on his special day.  Heck, I want to meet his soon-to-be wife, too.  I hope all of my family and friends know that when I don’t show up, it isn’t because I don’t care.  It is because I can’t.  I am trapped in this little fish bowl, and it is exactly the place I need to be.

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2 Responses to Fish Bowl

  1. velvetpuzzle says:

    I’m sure this was a heartbreaking entry to write. I know I’m sad for you reading it. But my experience is much the same: my big triumph recently was driving an hour through the rain…only to find I was then so exhausted and nauseated from that experience that I could not even pretend to myself that I could handle another five hours of sitting in a car while my brother drove in order to visit my dad. I cancelled the trip, very last minute. I too am unwilling to set myself back for a month to visit someone for a few days. This is called common sense.

    But….I also think that gradually the world will get larger again, for both of us. We just have to have a lot of patience for our healing. It takes time…


    • kwittorff says:

      It was difficult to write. I think the most difficult thing it made me face is how far I still need to go – after 20 months! I’m looking at another two years, probably, before I can travel with impunity. So long! And, that is just how it is. I think you made the right choice to cancel the trip… we do need to take care of ourselves. I don’t think either of us want to go back to whole weeks of fog.


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